« הקודםהמשך »
decide nothing. I leave you once more to judge of your own conduct.
Our fourth maxim regards slander. Slander is a vice impure in its source, dangerous in its effects, general in its influence, irreparable in its consequences ; a vice that strikes at once three mortal blows, it wounds him who commits it, him against whom it is committed, and him who sees it committed. It is tolerated in society, only because every one has an invincible inclination to commit it. Examine this place on this article. Are not your slanders famous even in distant climes? Do not strangers and travellers observe your propensity to this vice? Are not many of you cruelly attentive to the conduct of
your neighbors, and always asking, Where is he? Whence does he come? What is he about? What are his opinions? Have you no pleasure in discovering people's imperfections? Does not malice publish some vices, which charity ought to conceal ? Are no tales invented ? none enlarged ? No calumnies added? Are not the characters of the most respectable persons attacked, of heads of families, magistrates and ministers? Is not one unreasonably taxed with heresy, another with fraud, another with criminal intrigues, and so on? This is the fourth article of God's controversy. I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave you to judge of your own actions.
Fifthly. If the dangers, that threaten us, and the blows, that providence strikes, ought to affect us all, they ought to affect those most of all, who are most exposed to them. To explain ourselves. There is not one of us so secure, there is no credit so firm, no house so established, no fortune s safe, as not to be affected by this war. Consequently, there is not any one person, who ought not by fer
vent prayer, and genuine piety, to endeavor to engage heaven to prosper our armies.
It is, however, clear beyond a doubt, that our generals, officers and soldiers have a particular and personal concern in the approaching campaign. Men who, beside all the infirmities and dangers, to which human nature is subject, and to which they are exposed in common with all mankind, are going to expose themselves to the dangers of sieges and battles, and all other concomitants of war; they who are always contending with death they who march every day through fires and flames; they who have always the sound of warlike instruments in their ears, crying with a thundering voice, Remember ye are mortal; people of this profession, ought not they to be more affected with these objects than we, who see them, only at a distance?" And, consequently, ought not they to enter with greater sincerity into the religious dispositions, which such subjects are apt to excite? This is the maxim, the fifth article of God's controversy with us.
See, examine. Is piety expected among your troops ? Does the ark of the Lord always go at the head of your army? Does the pillar of a cloud direct your steps? Does benevolence animate you towards one another, partners as you are in common danger ? Do the mouths, that are ready to utter the last sigh, open only to bless the Creator, and to commit to him a soul hovering on the lips, and ready to depart ? Are offences against Jesus Christ punished as severely as offences against officers in the army? Do you provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are ye stronger than he ? 1 Cor. x. 22. Would
you force a victory in spite of him? Would you triumph without God, or would you have him succeed your attempts, when you carry impiety on
your foreheads, irreligion in your hearts, and blasphemy in your mouths ? I pronounce nothing. I decide nothing. I leave each of you to draw such inferences from thismaxim as naturally belong to it.
Our sixth maxim regards gaming. If gaming be innocent in any circumstances, they are uncommon and rare. It is easier to renounce this pleasure than to enjoy it without excess. Examine yourselves on this article. Are there none of us, to whom gaming is become necessary ? None who relish no other pleasure ? Are there no fathers and mothers, who train up their families in it, and embolden them by their examples ? Is there no opulent man, who imagines he has a right to spend his fortune in gaming? Is there no necessitous person, who hazards the support, yea the daily bread of his family in this practice? I determine nothing. I pronounce nothing. I leave you to judge of your own actions.
But why not pronounce, why not decide? Where fore respect false delicacy? Why not declare the whole counsel of God? Acts xx. 27. Why strive to please men? Gal. i. 10. Ah, my brethren ! were I to hold my peace, the walls and the pillars and the arches of this building, the hills and the mountains would rise up in judgment against you. Hear ye mountains, hear ye hills, hear the Lord's controversy. The Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. Yea, the Lord hath a controversy with you. His reproofs would cleave your hearts asunder, and dissolve you in floods of tears, were you capable of reflections and emotions. He complains of all the vices we have mentioned. He complains, that you are insensible to the most terrible threatenings of his mouth, and the heaviest strokes of his hand. He complains that ye bite and devour one another like wild and savage beasts. He complains, thát impiety, irreligion and intemperance reign over those souls, which are formed for the honor of having God for their king. He complains that you forget the excellence of your nature, and the dignity of your origin, and that you occupy your immortal souls with amusements unworthy of the attention of creatures having the least degree of intelligence. He complains, that exhortations, expostulations and intreaties, the most forcible and affecting, are almost always without success. He complains of some abominable crimes, which are committed in the face of the sun, and of others, that are concealed under the darkness of the night, the horrors of which I dare not even mention in this place dedicated to the service of God. He complains, that you force him, as it were, to lay aside his inclination to bless you, and oblige him to chastise you with severity. Behold! the storin gathers, the thunder mutters and approaches, the lightning is ready to flash in our faces, unless our fasting and sackcloth and ashes avert these judgments, which threaten us, or shall I rather say, which are already falling upon us? Such is the controversy of God with
these are his complaints. It is your part to reply. Justify yourselves, plead, speak, answer. people, what have I done unto thee? What have you to say in your own behalf? How can you justify your ingratitude, your insensibility, your luxury, your calumnies, your dissipations, your lukewarmness, your worldy mindedness, your pride, your unworthy communions, your forgotten fasts, your false contracts, your broken resolutions, the hardening of your hearts against threatenings and promises, and personal chastisements, some public calamities already inflicted on the church, and
others ready to overwhelm it? Have we any thing to reply? Again I say, justify yourselves, plead, speak, answer.
Ah! my brethren, my brethren ! am I deceiving myself ; I think, I see your hearts in your countenances, and read in your faces the reply you are going to make. Methinks I see your hearts penetrated with genuine grief, your faces covered with holy confusion, and your eyes, flowing with tears of godly sorrow. Methinks, I hear the language of your consciences, all broken and contrite, and trembling at the word of the Lord, Psalm. li. 19. methinks I hear each of you say, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer : but I would make supplication to my judge, Isa. Ixvi. 2 Job. ix. 15. This was the disposition of the people after they had heard Micah. God said, O my people, what have I done unto thee? wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. And the people, afflicted on account of their sins, afraid of the judgments of God, all wounded and weighed down with a sense of guilt, confused and astonished at their condition, replied, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?
This was the answer of the Jews, and this is the answer we expect of you. Let each of you say, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? How shall I turn away those torrents of divine judgments, which threaten to overwhelm the christian world? We, the ministers of Christ, we answer in the name of God, prevent them by sighs and tears of genuine repentance, prevent them by cool, constant, and effectual resolutions, by effusions of love, and by increasing zeal for universal obedience,